So much for hoping that New Orleans could head into the all-star break on a good note; after three quarters, it looked like the Hornets had a very good chance of making that happen. Unfortunately, the team fell apart in the 4th, seeing their 6-point lead evaporate and transform into a 7 point loss. Lots to take away from this game, most of which hopefully can be remedied by this much needed week-long break ahead.
- Before I start grilling the team, let’s hit the positive notes. Trevor Ariza played one of the most well-rounded games I’ve seen from him this season; 16 points on 6-14 shooting isn’t that great, but the 9 rebounds (4 offensive), 6 assists, and 3 steals is pretty impressive. Jarrett Jack again played pretty well on offense, scoring 12 points thanks to making 4 of his 7 shots and all 4 free throws. I mentioned in my T-Wolves recap a little over a week ago that it was “increasingly obvious that his reduction in minutes as a result of his move from Toronto to New Orleans has negatively impacted his game.” I think Monty must have agreed because he has been getting more playing time recently; as a result, he has been able to get into a rhythm offensively and has played much better. He was consistently attacking the paint last night, finishing with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals; if last night’s game was the first NBA game you had ever seen, you probably would have thought that he was our starting PG, but more on that in a minute.
- Special shout-out to Willie Green and David West for their great shooting. We expect it from West (10-18 from the field, 7-8 from the line for 27 points), but not usually from Willie. Green made 11 of his 19 shots and added 6 rebounds, tying for the game’s 3rd highest point total with 24. He made some really impressive shots, but potentially his most impressive stat was the lone turnover. Considering how high his usage rate was for the game, to only have one turnover is a testament to Green’s added focus on taking care of the ball, not just trying to score it.
- Now, on to the negatives. Once again, Thornton had a pretty brutal game. He made a couple mental mistakes, and never really got going offensively, making 2 of his 6 shots in his 12 minutes of action. Belinelli only played 6 minutes (missed his only shot attempt) in yet another rotation shuffle by Monty, as only 6 Hornets players saw more than a dozen minutes of playing time. He probably did this because the team’s next game is not until next Wednesday, but the end result still was not victory. Finally, although Jack played very well on offense, his defense was horrendous, as he was constantly getting burned by Blazer guards.
- CP3, what’s up? Eight points on six shots and 5 assists vs. 4 turnovers in 42 minutes? He did not even look remotely interested in this game, as he frequently brought the ball down the court, passed to another guard, and stood on the wing behind the 3-point line until a shot went up. In the prior two games against Portland, Paul dominated his matchup with Blazers PG Andre Miller; last night, the roles were reversed. CP3 may need this break more than anyone else; in his last 5 games, he has made 17 of his 54 shot attempts (31.5%), recorded 39 assists (7.8 pg) and turned the ball over 16 times (3.2 pg), well worse than his season averages of 47.7% from the field, 9.7 assists per game, and 2.4 turnovers per game. It’s too early to say what’s truly bothering him (here’s to praying it’s not his knee), but I’m just going to hope that a fresh start after the all-star break fixes things. For further reading on the subject, Rohan from SB Nation’s At The Hive blog discusses it here.
- I know LaMarcus Aldridge put up 34, but we knew that would happen before the game; he’s going to get his points. We lost points in the paint 52-42, but we won the second chance points battle 25-11, so I can’t really blame the Hornets’ loss on inside scoring. If you want to pin-point one reason for the loss, look no further than the Blazers’ starting guard combo of Miller and Matthews. On the season, the combo averages just under 30 points per game on about 45% shooting. Last night, they totaled 42 points on 55.6% shooting, and the responsibility for those numbers falls squarely on the shoulders of Paul and Jack. Neither one of our guards could stop either of their guards from getting into the paint or getting open looks, and the Hornets paid for it.
NEXT GAME: This weekend is the all-star break, and as a result, the Hornets are off for about a week. Their next game is Wednesday night in the Hive against the Los Angeles Clippers at 8:30; the game will be televised nationally on ESPN. New Orleans plans to have starting center Emeka Okafor back, and he will be a welcome addition to a Hornets team that is really struggling. Enjoy the all-star festivities this weekend, and hopefully CP3 remembers how to be the aggressor that makes him who he is. Go Hornets!